It’s been a tough 2023 thus far for the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters.
Prior to the start of the 2023 Honda PBA Governors’ Cup, the Fuel Masters lost the services of head coach Topex Robinson, who accepted the same role with the DLSU Green Archers. With only a couple of weeks to prepare, Phoenix decided to name Jamike Jarin as the interim coach in the hope of maintaining some continuity from Robinson’s tenure.
Along with elevating Jarin, the Fuel Masters also brought in some players in the brief break between conferences, acquiring JJ Alejandro and Raul Soyud (along with some draft picks) in trades with the NLEX Road Warriors and the TNT Tropang Giga. Phoenix also signed former Green Archer Jollo Go to bolster its roster.
All of that, though, has yet to lead to a victory.
It doesn’t help that the Fuel Masters faced the mini gauntlet in the Tropang Giga, the Blackwater Bossing, and the San Miguel Beeermen to open the 2023 Governors’ Cup. Phoenix’s losses to TNT and Blackwater were pretty close, but their most recent defeat to the Beermen was brutal to say the least.
The Fuel Masters had no answers for SMB’s offensive onslaught, as a 42-point first quarter highlighted a strong shooting night from San Miguel. Not only was Phoenix rendered helpless, but they also fell in love with the 3-pointer so much that it got cold and hurt them in the end.
At 0-3, the Fuel Masters are likely grasping on straws. Phoenix isn’t short on talent, though, as they have the likes of Jason Perkins, Encho Serrano, Tyler Tio, and import Du’Vaughn Maxwell, all of whom can score from various areas on the court. Getting quality shots can at times be difficult, as in the loss to the Beermen, only Maxwell (a game-high 21 points) and Larry Muyang (15 points) attempted more than two shots and at the same time, made more than half of their field goal attempts.
Piling onto the Fuel Masters’ on-and-off offense is a defense that keeps opponents in the game. Letting SMB get whatever they want inside is playing into their hands and the lack of rim protection is obvious. Pressure in the perimeter becomes all the more crucial, as limiting entry passes lessens the chances of inside scores.
Taken together, Phoenix needs to win the battle of possessions. Hot shooting nights and defensive masterclasses come from maximizing chances and limiting extra ones. The Fuel Masters will likely encounter days where it’s one or the other, and rarely, a great night on both ends of the floor. Against more stacked and seasoned squads it might have to be a game of attrition.
As it is only a quarter into the 2023 Governors’ Cup, there are still quite a number of basketball games to be played. It is, however, an uphill climb for Jarin and company. He obviously has his work cut out for him and Jarin is not a stranger to taking on an interim role all of a sudden, having done so with the UE Red Warriors in UAAP Season 84. Success has eluded the 4-time PBA champion (as an assistant coach) as his last championships and winning records came with the San Beda University Red Lions (back when they were known as the San Beda College Red Lions) and the ADMU Blue Eaglets programs.
Considering his experience, Jarin should be fine with handling a young team. He has coached some and strategized against most of the current members of the Fuel Masters’ roster. That takes care of the familiarity portion, but installing what he wants with Phoenix takes time, and we’re witnessing those growing pains in this season-ending conference.
We’re barely a month into 2023 but the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters are already behind the eight ball. From sudden roster changes to tough losses, the Fuel Masters had lemons thrown at them from all corners. Daunting as it may seem, Phoenix is still in control of their destiny in the 2023 Honda PBA Governors’ Cup. So long as they can turn lemons into lemonade.